Maharashtra crisis: Disqualification notices served to 16 Sena rebels

Maharashtra deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal issued disqualification notices to 16 rebel Shiv Sena members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) holed up in Guwahati, including their leader and minister Eknath Shinde, for not obeying the party whip. The division within the Shiv Sena has put in doubt the survival of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition headed by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The turmoil sparked further violence in the state with Shiv Sena workers attacking properties associated with the rebels. As a precautionary measure, police in Mumbai imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) until July 10.

“Following the disqualification request made with the deputy speaker, summons have been issued against you under the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986,” said the notice to the MLAs. “You can file a written reply in your defence, by June 27 till 5:30 pm along with relevant documents that you feel are necessary for reference.” The summons was issued by Rajendra Bhagwat, principal secretary, Maharashtra legislature, on behalf of the deputy speaker.

The Shinde group has indicated it will challenge in court the deputy speaker’s decision to send them notices. Zirwal is said to have rejected the rebels’ notice seeking his removal, saying that it did not follow procedure.

Legislative assembly officials were not available to confirm this. The rebel MLAs had said that since a motion for removal has been moved against Zirwal, he cannot decide on the disqualification of MLAs. The rebellion became public earlier this week after the rebels were taken to Surat and went on to Guwahati.

Chief minister Thackeray said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was seeking to destroy the Shiv Sena at a national executive meeting on Saturday. The party passed six resolutions, which included authorising Thackeray to take action against the rebels. It also said no one would be allowed to use the name of the party or founder Bal Thackeray to form a new group. This came after the rebels decided to name their faction Shiv Sena (Balasaheb).

“The executive decided that Shiv Sena belongs to Bal Thackeray and is committed to taking forward his fierce ideology of Hindutva and Marathi pride,” party spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut said. “It passed a resolution, giving all powers to take action against those who have betrayed the party to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.” Following the violence, Shinde said the MVA government had withdrawn police security for the families of the rebel MLAs.

Mumbai police deployed personnel at the city-based offices of various political parties and leaders, including ministers, MLAs and MPs, and their residences, as a security measure, an official said on Saturday.

Deepak Kesarkar, a spokesperson of the rebel group, said it has a two-thirds majority and hence Shinde remains the leader of the Sena legislature group.

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